PlayStation 4 will support 4K playback, but Sony needs to be careful lest it repeat past mistakes

Sony PlayStation 4 specs

3D television? Feh. Smart TVs? Whatever. The new hotness in the increasingly desperate television business is 4K resolution, televisions with a horizontal resolution of 4000 pixels. The pixel density of 1080p HD televisions pales in comparison! 4K makes for enormous HD televisions with resolutions comparable to Apple’s iPhone 4 Retina Display. That’s why they call them “Ultra Definition.” These TVs are bananas. Take the LG 84-inch 4K: It is $22,000. Sony’s got one in the works too, the 80-inch XBR, which will cost around $30,000.

No one is going to be buying these things anytime soon. That isn’t stopping Sony from making the PlayStation 4 capable of outputting in 4K.

Boy Genius Report reported on Wednesday that a source indicated that the PlayStation 4, sometimes called Orbis, will support 4K playback.

Now luckily this won’t make the PlayStation 4 an astronomically expensive doodad out the gates like the PlayStation 3 was. Sony currently sells Blu-ray players capable of 4K playback for around $200.

Sony, and more specifically designer Ken Kutaragi, made the PlayStation 3 as a future-proofed catch all last decade. It had Blu-ray. It output in 1080p when the vast majority of games weren’t made for the resolution and most people hadn’t even upgraded to HD televisions. As a result, the console cost $500 when it first came out, a price that guaranteed Microsoft’s Xbox 360 a lasting head start in sales.

If 4K is a perk that doesn’t drive up the PS4’s price, then Sony should have at it. If however Sony thinks that a grand push with 4K across all of its entertainment devices is going to result in rejuvenating its television business, it should think again. Sony’s entertainment business has sagged in recent years because of the company’s insistence on technologies that consumers just aren’t interested in. 3D TV in particular has been an enormous failure for Sony.

It’s only been in the past two years that HD television adoption has finally picked up steam, and it’s still far from ubiquitous. Only 69 percent of US households have an HDTV according to Leichtman Research Group.

Sony CEO Kaz Hirai recently said that Sony needs to build its entertainment businesses—music, movies, video games, etc.—to succeed. He’s right. Sony’s hardware business meanwhile needs to take a page from Samsung’s playbook: Make it cheap.